Information & Facts
As the the birthplace of Christianity and Judaism, Israel is densely packed with enough attractions and experiences to last a lifetime.
For lovers of sun, sand and sea, head to the renowned Red Sea and enjoy floating in its crystalline turquoise waters; or for a rejuvenating experience, visit one of the many Dead Sea spa resorts and while you're in the area, head to Israel's most popular tourist destination of Masada located in the Judean Desert.
Bethlehem is worth a visit, as well as Nazareth, one of the most important Christian holy sites where Jesus spent most of his life; while Yad VaShem is an important memorial to the Holocaust providing a multifaceted tribute to the millions of Jews who died during World War II.
The best time of year to visit is during the spring (March/April) and autumn months (September/October), when the weather is cooler and more tolerable for tourists. Since travelling distances are not great in Israel, it's often almost quicker to drive to some places than to catch a plane. There are good public transport systems in place in the major cities. The best way to experience Israel is to hire a car and take a relaxed approach to seeing the country and exploring all the religious and historical sites it has to offer.
The majority of business in Israel is centred in Tel Aviv. Dress tends to be less formal than in the USA and Europe, but business people tend to dress in suits for important meetings or presentations so formal attire is recommended. Women should dress more conservatively, especially in strictly religious areas. Business cards are usually exchanged, though with little formality involved. Meetings often do not begin promptly and much time can be given to socialising. Business hours are usually from 8.30am to 5pm, from Sunday to Thursday, and on Friday mornings. Sundays are regarded as a normal business day.
Israel has a Mediterranean climate, characterised by long, hot, dry summers and short, cool and wet winters.
The international access code for Israel is +972. The outgoing code is 00 (not from public phones) followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). There are other outgoing codes depending on which network is used to dial out on. City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)2 for Jerusalem. Public phones are card operated and are readily available, and instruction cards state whether to dial 012, 013 or 014 for overseas. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators; otherwise mobile phones can easily be rented. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and tourist areas all over Israel.
Israel is a largely religious society and religious customs should be respected. Indecent behaviour is not tolerated and offenders will be arrested and fined heavily or imprisoned. Care should be taken not to photograph any military or police personnel or installations, and visitors should be discreet about taking photographs in Jewish Orthodox areas and of Jewish Orthodox people. It is advisable to carry official identification at all times.
Travellers to Israel do not have to pay duty on 250 cigarettes or 250g of other tobacco products; 2 litres wine and 1 litre of other types of alcoholic beverages; 250ml of eau de cologne or perfume; and gifts to the value of US$150 for residents and US$125 for non-residents. Prohibited items include fresh meat and fresh fruit (especially from South Africa).
220 volts, 50Hz; European-style two-pin and round three-pin plugs are used.
There are no special precautions required for travel to Israel, but insect protection from August to November is recommended due to the prevalence of the West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. A Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as well as a tetanus vaccine. Bird Flu has been discovered in Gaza as well as in a number of towns in Israel. The risk to travellers is very low, but close contact with live birds should be avoided, and all egg and poultry dishes should be well cooked as a precaution. Medical facilities in Israel are excellent but treatment can be very expensive, so it is essential that travellers take out full insurance.
Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel. Most of the population also speak English.
The Israeli Shekel (ILS) is divided into 100 agorot (singular is agora). Money can be changed in the small exchange bureaux found on most main streets, or at banks and hotels. ATMs are prevalent throughout the country and linked to American systems. Most banks are open Sunday through to Friday until noon, and are open again from 4pm till 6pm on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, though commission on these is high.
All foreign passengers to Israel must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country. Additionally, visitors should hold return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Note that holders of a visa category "Aliyah" are allowed to enter Israel on a one-way ticket. Passengers intending to proceed from Israel to Arab countries other than Egypt, Jordan or the United Arab Emirates should ensure that their passport does not contain an Israeli visa or stamps, since no passenger is allowed to enter other Arab countries with such passports. Passengers who, after a three months' stay in Israel are permitted to stay for a longer period, will obtain the extension stamp in their passport - it is NOT possible to have it stamped on a separate sheet. Note that travellers may enter Jordan directly from occupied territory, but must hold a visa for Jordan (to be obtained from a representation of Jordan abroad), otherwise entry will be refused. The Jordanian authorities will NOT permit re-cross to occupied territory. Travellers may also enter occupied territory directly from Jordan. The Israeli authorities will permit a re-cross to Jordanian territory. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travellers in Israel should maintain a high level of vigilance and keep up to date with developments. The risk of terrorist attacks remains high and travellers to the region, including Jerusalem, need to exercise caution particularly around locations specifically targeted by attacks in the past such as bars, nightclubs, markets and buses. Suicide bombers have targeted crowded public areas resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries over the years, and although foreigners have not been specific targets, many have been caught up in the attacks. Check with local embassies for the latest travel advisory notices. All travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank should be avoided. There is also a continuing threat of kidnap of foreign nationals in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Tipping in Israel, according to the level of service, is expected (unless a service charge is added to the bill).